Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ve made it to another Thursday! This week our friend at Wandering Through the Shelves had us exploring teen comedies, which means that one of us actually sat through Porky’s. True story.
Thanks to Wandering Through the Shelves for inspiring me to watch so many great movies this week. The term “teen comedy” made me wince at first until I realized how many of them I actually love. I really struggled to get my list down to 3 this week.
American Graffiti– Set in 1962 during the last night before two high school grads head off to college, four friends spend one last hilariously wild night driving around the strip trying to get laid, find someone to buy beer for them, and give a clingy 12 year-old the slip. Most teen comedies are made by filmmakers looking for easy money but, in 1973, few people thought there would be an audience for this story and Universal apparently sat on the finished film for months before finally getting around to releasing it. It became a surprise hit and one of my favourite movies of all time. Filled with energy from beginning to end- not to mention the music of the 50s and early 60s-, it’s like Superbad just with less dick drawings. It’s a rare thing to see a teen party movie made by such a celebrated and talented filmmaker (George Lucas).
Heathers- “Dear diary. My teen angst bullshit has a body count”. The genre doesn’t get much darker than this. Teen murders made to look like teen suicides inadvertently brings much-needed (albeit phony) attention from the students, faculty, and media to this very real problem. Director Michael Lehmann and writer Daniel Waters apparently made the movie partly as a reaction to the John Hughes movies that they despised and it doesn’t get much different from Pretty in Pink than this. I found the dream-like tone disorienting at first but I was quickly won over by the twistedly hilarious writing and a great lead performance by Winona Ryder.
Superbad- Sometimes less dick drawings isn’t necessarily a good thing. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg started working on this script when they were 13 and it shows. The pair have never written anything else so far that felt so personal. It’s filthy as it gets and quotable as hell (“The funny thing about my back is it’s located on my cock”) but what’s most impressive is that it never forgets what it’s really about. Two best friends who have been joined at the hip for years are experiencing lots of separation anxiety knowing that they’ll be going to different colleges next year but can’t bring themselves to talk about it. It’s excruciatingly awkward to watch at times but also pretty sweet. And did I mention that it’s quotable? “This plan has been fucked since Jump Street and it’s all because of that used tampon Fogell.”
Well Matt and I have come to our very first agreement – Superbad. The chemistry between Michael Cera and Jonah Hill is supergood, and though neither likely attended much actual high school, they sure capture the awkwardness with great gusto.
Saved! Set in a private Christian high school, Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore) is lead singer in the Christian Jewels. Mary (Jena Malone), her best friend and band mate, begins to pull away as she discovers that her attempt to degay-ify her boyfriend Dean has resulted in a not-so-immaculate conception. She finds solace in the school’s only alternatives – Jewish bad girl Cas (Eva Amurri), Roland, the paralyzed atheist (Macauley Culkin), and Patrick, the skate-boarding pastor’s son (Patrick Fugit). It’s got all the familiar trappings of a classic teen comedy – the cliques and the outcasts, the bumbling parents, and the prom – they just happen to be coated thickly in Jesus. And on that level, it’s a great subversive critique of religion. Hypocrisy and high school – can you imagine a better pairing?
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off I’m expecting to see this on each and every list today because Ferris is the seminal teen comedy. We may as well have stopped making them, or at least seeing them, after this point, and nearly all that are made can’t help but reference it. Ferris Bueller, at the age of 17, knew how to take a day off. How many of us can say the same even now?
Jawbreaker Bonus pick! This is not the best movie, but it’s a sentimental favourite. The Mean Girls of the 90s, three of the school’s most popular girls (Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart, and someone else) accidentally kill the prom queen in a kidnapping prank. A cover-up of the crime is discovered by the school nerd (Judy Greer) and only the promise of a makeover and popularity will keep her quiet.
Teen Wolf – I first saw this movie before I was a teenager at a slumber party. I don’t remember much from that first viewing but I remember loving it. I mean, wolf Michael J. Fox was pretty much the best basketball player ever. And watching it now adds a whole other level of comedy because it’s so dated and so cheesy but so great. Probably the worst sports scenes ever filmed though.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – this is without question one of my favourite movies ever. I remember renting it for a week (along with a rental VCR of course) and watching it over and over and over. The history presentation is both the most awesome and most stupid climax to a movie but I always wished I could put together something as randomly great for a school project or anything in life.
Dazed & Confused It’s the last day of school in small town Texas 1976. The seniors are hazing the freshmen, and everyone is trying to get stoned, drunk, or laid, even the football players that signed a pledge not to. “Alright, alright, alright!” in the scene at the drive-in was Matthew McConaughey’s first line ever spoken on camera and is now basically his trademark. His production company, JKL Productions, comes from Wooderson’s life credo: Just Keep Livin’!, so it’s safe to say that this movie was as big for him as it was for us. This movie is one of the best ensemble casts of my generation. Absolutely everyone is in this movie – it’s unbelievable how many familiar faces are here. I can’t say whether Dazed and Confused properly captures the 1970s teenage experience but it is so timeless and universal that the time period doesn’t matter. Richard Linklater really captures what it is to be a teen while taking us on a hilarious ride. Incidentally, the other movies on my list are more personal favourites and I don’t pretend they are actually good movies, but this one is not only good, it’s great. If you haven’t seen it you need to.